Toshiba, NEC, Sony: No plan yet for joint chip plant

Sony, Toshiba and NEC Electronics said they haven't yet made a decision on joint chip production thus denying a report to the contrary in a Japanese newspaper.

Sony, Toshiba NEC Electronics said they haven't yet made a decision on joint production of advanced semiconductor chips, thus denying a report to the contrary in the Monday morning edition of Japan's Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

The newspaper said the three companies have agreed to form a joint venture company to produce 45-nanometer generation chips.

A nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter and the measurement refers to the size of the smallest feature on a chip's surface. In chip technology, smaller generally means better. As features shrink, chips can become smaller, more powerful and more energy efficient -- all attractive features, particularly for chips for portable electronics devices. Most advanced chips are made today on 90-nm production lines and some companies, like Intel, have recently started 65-nm production lines.

Representatives for all three companies said no decision on joint production has yet to be made. NEC Electronics is in talks with Toshiba on such production but it hasn't talked to Sony, said Hisashi Saito, a spokesman for the Kawasaki-based company.

Any joint production would expand development work between the three companies that recently began. Toshiba and Sony have been working on 45-nm chip technology for about two years and NEC Electronics joined the project last month.

Semiconductor companies are increasingly looking to work together to offset the high cost of more advanced technology. A next-generation chip plant capable of producing 45-nm chips is estimated to cost between US$2 billion and US$3 billion.

Toshiba and two other domestic rivals, Hitachi and Renesas Technology, are looking into joint production at this moment. The three have formed a joint planning company to examine a plan to pool resources and jointly build a chip plant. They expect to reach a decision within the next few months.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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